League of Legends' ShyvanaAmericans are spending 24 percent more on free-to-play massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) this year than they did in 2010, according to a new market report from Newzoo.

Consumers spent a total of $4.9 billion on free-to-play (F2P) MMO games across thirteen key Western, Asian and emerging markets in 2011, with 47 percent ($1.2 billion) of all MMO spending coming from the United States, according to the 2011 MMO Games Market Report. This is significantly higher than the 39 percent spent in 2010, but is still lower than spending in European (53 percent), Asian (51 percent) and Emerging (59 percent) markets.

The report also found that consumer preferences differ significantly across regions and countries when it comes to business models and genres, or whether players prefer browser or client-based games. Twenty-four percent of Asian MMO players prefer only client-based games, a figure that drops to 15 percent in Emerging markets, for example. In all regions, Newzoo says approximately one-third of gamers play both browser and client-based MMOs, but the fastest growing F2P games widely vary across countries. According to iQU tracking data of 80 million online gamers around the world, Wargaming’s World of Tanks tops the charts in Europe including Russia, Riot Games’ League of Legends is number one in the U.S. and AeriaGames’ Shaiya leads in Latin America.

Despite growth in the MMO market, however, the report finds individual games and publishers are struggling to grow or maintain revenue level and market share, especially in Western markets. Due to the number of high-quality MMO games now available to consumers, Newzoo predicts 2012 will be a year of consolidation, where the increasing number of Asian online game companies seeking expansion outside the continent could play a key role.

“The MMO games market is rapidly turning global. It has become increasingly important for MMO developers and publishers think carefully about which titles to publish in what territories and how to adapt the games according to local preferences, including monetization models that work best,” said Peter Warman, Newzoo CEO and co-author of the 2011 MMO Games Market Report.

Warman said that recent layoffs and the sudden death of Lego Universe are serious warnings for the MMO games industry. He said that success will also strongly depend on “how MMO companies extend their unique game play and intellectual property across other game platforms, specifically mobile.”